GUEST COMMENTARY: County workers shouldn't be political pawns

2014-03-07T01:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: County workers shouldn't be political pawnsBy John Evans
March 07, 2014 1:00 am  • 

After a few days out of town, I spent a few hours reviewing recent news articles and editorials. I find it necessary to spend a few minutes to address the continuing assault on our county employees by some individuals for no other reason than to score political points as they face re-election.

It is no secret that the salaries and benefits we provide our county employees comprise the largest portion of our budgets. They are our largest financial liability. But what some fail to recognize is that the dedication and commitment of our county employees is also our single largest asset.

County government is in the business of service, and our employees are critical to meeting the level of quality service our residents deserve and demand. Our employees plow the snow, pave our roads and inspect our bridges. Our employees protect the health of our children and ensure the safety of the food that we eat. Our employees answer the 911 call when a loved one falls or has a heart attack. Our employees protect our lives and property, prosecute those who would endanger us, assure that justice is administered, and house those who are guilty.

Our employees gather stray animals from our yards, house them and find them new homes. Our employees improve our quality of life with cultural and recreational programs. Our employees assess our homes, record our real estate transactions, send out tax bills, collect the taxes and pay our bills. Our employees protect our environment, reduce our carbon imprint, and assure the quality of water that we drink. Our employees develop and enforce building codes that assure our homes are safe. Our employees develop and enforce zoning laws that assure orderly growth and protect property values.

Our employees work hard every day to meet the needs of our citizens, and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. They should never be treated as political pawns for election year gains.

As everyone is aware, this board commissioned and has received the confidential human resources report. That report is very lengthy and complicated, and deserves a deliberate and thoughtful examination. The commissioners will be working to determine actions that may be necessary, and the best way to achieve those actions.

In the interim, I want to address three issues.

First, the commission will not consider any changes to human resources policies by any single department or office. Any changes that result from the human resources report will be made for all employees, across the board. Our employees deserve to know everyone is treated equally and fairly.

Second, I assure our county employees that any wholesale changes to human resources policies or benefits will not be made without their input. This Board of Commissioners values their work and dedication, and is committed to working together with them through this process. We anticipate forming a committee, similar to what we did with the health insurance changes, to assure employees' opinions and needs are respected.

Finally, the commissioners intend to begin immediate discussions with the County Council leadership to establish and fund a county human resources department. There has been enough talking, and the time has come for action.

John Evans is president of the Porter County Board of Commissioners. The opinions are the writer's.

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